Our history

In 2017, Arthritis Research UK and Arthritis Care joined forces so that we could achieve more for people with arthritis. In September 2018, we became Versus Arthritis.

This is an exciting and special time in our story. As Versus Arthritis, we'll take the best from both our legacy organisations to create a movement standing with and for people with arthritis.

Here are a few key events that led us here.


In 1936, Arthritis Research UK began life as the Empire Rheumatism Council, set up by Dr Will Copeman and other like-minded doctors who were committed to stopping the pain of arthritis.

In 1947, Arthur Mainwaring-Bowen set up an organisation for people with arthritis and rheumatism which was registered as the British Rheumatic Association (BRA) in 1949. This organisation became later known as Arthritis Care.

In the 50s, Arthritis Research UK began to train doctors and medical students and educate the public about the impact of arthritis. They also produced their first information booklets on rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.

Arthritis Care raised £1,135 in its first appeal for funds and as a result opened the first of many houses to accommodate people who needed care.


Research funded by Arthritis Research UK began to show that arthritis is neither simply a wear-and-tear condition nor an inevitable part of ageing.

Arthritis Care invested in more accommodation for people with arthritis, opening six warden-attended flats: the New Mayfair, Carlisle House and Burnlea Hotel. In 1985, Terry Wogan hosted the reception of the first Arthritis Care week.

In 1989, Arthritis Care opened its helpline and first shop was launched.


In the 1990s, research led by professors Sir Marc Feldmann and Sir Ravinder (Tiny) Maini at Arthritis Research UK’s Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology was responsible for the biggest breakthrough yet in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. A key molecule that causes inflammation and joint damage – known as tumour necrosis factor or TNF – was uncovered.

This led to the development of a new class of drugs known as biological therapies, which have transformed treatment and lives of people with rheumatoid arthritis and other types of inflammatory arthritis over the past 20 years.

During this time, Arthritis Care developed over 500 branches across England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. They launched a three-year programme of self-management courses, the UK's first parent support group conference and the UK's first conference for young people with arthritis.

The Duke of Westminster also awarded Arthritis Care volunteers for outstanding services for people with arthritis and launched the Going for Gold appeal, aiming to raise £5 million over three years for 10 initiatives improving quality of life.

Later on, the Arthritis Care roadshow visited 43 sites across the UK with 13,000 visitors and 1,000 volunteers. The Osteoarthritis Nation report was also launched. This study revealed that four out of five people with osteoarthritis live in constant pain.

Arthritis Care also launched their online community. This peer-to-peer online support service now has thousands of people with arthritis speaking and listening to each other and sharing their experiences about living with arthritis. 

In November 2017, Arthritis Research UK and Arthritis Care joined forces and merged as one organisation.


We're Versus Arthritis. We’ve come together, taking the best of both organisations and our rich histories of working with and for people with arthritis to do even more.

We’re 10 million people living with arthritis. We’re fundraisers, supporters, bakers, health professionals, volunteers, campaigners and researchers. Together, we’re demanding that the pain and isolation of arthritis is no longer tolerated. We’re pushing to defy arthritis. We are Versus Arthritis.

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A journey to defy arthritis